“Smartphone App Enables Family Forest Owners to Get Paid to Store Carbon” – but not in Nova Scotia (yet)

And some thoughts on the impacts on wood markets if Nova Scotian woodlot owners could benefit from carbon markets

Addendum May 3, 2018: Listening to Dale Prest on CBC this morning, I realized I had not done my homework properly. Apologies to readers. It is not just the high volume stands that can benefit from carbon offset credits (as implied in the post originally – that has been corrected) but the  high volume stands would  be the most valuable.  Any management program that would increase the carbon stored on a property would in principle be eligible for carbon offset credits; as more carbon is stored the $ return increases, so the higher the volume initially, the higher the return initially*. A 100 year commitment is required. There is a lot more involved. Currently there is no system in place in Nova Scotia to facilitate woodlot owners participating in carbon markets. Dale Prest is heading up the recently formed Climate Forest Company which will assist Maritime woodlot owners seeking to participate in carbon markets. Some further notes and links on forest carbon offsets are appended at the end of this post.
*I checked with Dale Prest on the accuracy of this statement (“as more carbon is stored the $ return increases, so the higher the volume initially, the higher the return initially”). He says it “is indeed accurate, as those with more carbon will be able to sell more carbon credits and realize higher returns both initially and throughout the life of the project.” He also commented:”No one has figured out how to structure payments for small family woodlot owners. Money is trading hands using the Forest Carbon Works system so obviously they have a lot figured out, however no harvesting is allowed in those forests, an important caveat to some. [Last sentence edited May 4, 2018]. The only projects that have been developed are on large land bases owned by single individuals, which is considerably more straight forward.” The Climate Forest Company is developing/promoting a system that would allow smaller woodlot owners in the Maritimes to participate in carbon markets.

Merchantable forest volumes in sections of eastern NS (above) and southwest NS (below) After centuries of intensive harvesting, high volume forests stands now exist only as a patchwork throughout the province. The darker patches in the maps above have the higher volumes that store the most carbon and that would be most valuable to woodlot owners participating in carbon markets under an expanded Cap and Trade system for Nova Scotia. High volume stands are most abundant in SW Nova Scotia, now the focus (or desired focus) of industrial forest harvesting in Nova Scotia.
Click on image for larger version

Begin post of May 1, 2018: Nova Scotia introduced its Cap and Trade Legislation on Sep 29, 2017; it was given Royal Assent on Oct 26, 2017. The system is restricted to the province of Nova Scotia and has no provisions that would enable private woodlot owners to benefit from carbon offsets* as promoted by Dale Prest:

“Prest says the province needs to implement the right cap-and-trade system, one that openly trades with markets in Ontario, Quebec and California. But the province has initially committed to creating their own system, with all the trading done within Nova Scotia, although they’re open to options.”

Prest believes that major financial benefits for woodlot owners and rural communities could be realized and that opening the market up would prompt a move “From one [a forest industry] that rewards a low cost of production that results in clear cutting, to one that rewards maintaining and growing a healthy forest as possible.” – in Cap-and-trade system could help province’s forestry industry by Amanda Panacci for Chronicle Herald Nov 23, 2017

View also:
Carbon pricing: Making it happen for Nova Scotia woodland owners
Dale Prest in NSWOOA Newsletter Nov 2017
*Carbon offsets: A carbon offset is a reduction in emissions of carbon dioxide or greenhouse gases made in order to compensate for or to offset an emission made elsewhere.

The province apparently remains open “to allow linking with programs in other places in the future if that is determined to be in the province’s best interest.” (Press Release Sep 29, 2017).

I am fully expecting that the Independent Review of Forestry Practices in Nova Scotia will come out strongly in support of a system that would allow private woodlots owners to participate in these markets, as it “only makes sense”.

An interesting example of how private woodlot owners might then participate in the carbon markets is given by an article/advertisement in Business Wire for April 30, 2018: Smartphone App Enables Family Forest Owners to Get Paid to Store Carbon

For the first time ever, small forest owners can now access the same carbon market as timber companies to sell carbon credits from their forests through ecoPartners’ platform Forest Carbon Works. This innovative technology provides an alternative for small forest landowners to broaden their revenues beyond timber and cultivate their forests’ ecological value with a fast track to the carbon market. By monetizing the forest as an asset, family forest owners – like Jon and Janice Stewart who are receiving approximately $10,000 annually – can now be paid to sustainably manage their properties.

Forest Carbon Works makes it possible for landowners to measure the carbon stored by their forests in as little as 50 acres using a smartphone app, where previous measurement costs made participation too expensive. Forest Carbon Works reduces the cost to a $75.00 application fee where previously costs exceeded $250,000. Read more

‘Sounds a lot like a technology that got its start in Nova Scotia: Woodscamp. Woodscamp is now “active” in Alabama and Wisconsin, but not yet in Nova Scotia.

If private woodlots could benefit from carbon offsets, that could impact wood supply for the mills which perhaps is one reason the McNeil government hasn’t pursued this option – or at least chose not to include it in version 1 of Nova Scotia’s Cap and Trade system. It is the higher volume/older forest stands which are the most valuable to the mills that would also be most valuable for carbon offsets:

“Well-designed climate change policy would give forest owners and managers incentives to manage their lands specifically to store more carbon, and compensate those landowners for their efforts. For example, CFI has already been paid slightly more than $300,000 for the carbon stored on our 705-acre woodlot over a 100-year contract. Put another way, we have been paid $3,000 per year for 100 years to keep our average stocking above 20 cords [179 cubic meters/ha] to the acre. We can still cut every tree on that woodlot, just not all at once.” – Dale Prest, Carbon pricing: Making it happen for Nova Scotia woodland owners in NSWOOA Newsletter Nov 2016

There could be a big uptake of a carbon offsets option by private woodlot owners as many are already seeking ways to make conservation of healthy forests and avoidance of clearcutting more feasible (Kekacs: Gifts to a Future World: Conversations with Woodland Owners in Nova Scotia, MES thesis, 2017).

This thesis suggests that forest landowners in Nova Scotia see their woodlands as a source of significant financial, environmental, or social benefits that must be safeguarded into the future. The precise values that should be protected, and the specific beneficiaries who will receive that legacy, vary from owner to owner. Collectively, however, the participants in this study were united in their belief that the responsibilities that come with woodland ownership are primarily owed to a future world. This is a powerful concept, and it offers a new way to think about the decisions and the behaviours of forest landowners.

If the province facilitated a market for forest carbon offsets by opening up our Cap and Trade system, the Mills would have to compete with that market and offer private woodlot owners higher prices for their wood or pay more to harvest selectively in high volume stands. At the same time, you can bet they would put pressure on NSDNR to allow even more cutting on Crown land to “ensure the supply of wood to the mills”.

But then, shouldn’t more of that high volume Crown land be allowed to remain high volume, so  we can count it as a credit against our continued use of coal after 2030, not to mention benefits for biodiversity conservation?

High volume forest stands that would benefit most, at least initially, from carbon offsets in an expanded Cap and Trade system for Nova Scotia now exist as a patchwork throughout the province with the highest concentrations in SW Nova Scotia – that’s where WestFor operates and wants to harvest the same high volume stands. So these remaining high volume, older forest stands are precious in more ways than one.

The Independent Review of Forestry Practices has been asked to “Evaluate market access for private forest owners, particularly in the western region, and provide recommendations to address any identified issues” (from the Terms of Reference).

So I expect that Prof Lahey & Co. will present a much more nuanced perspective of the opportunities and tradeoffs that would be involved if when private landowners in Nova Scotia are enabled to participate in carbon markets.


On Forest Carbon Offsets

From The Climate Trust – FAQ Forest Carbon Projects

What is a forest carbon offset?:
As forests grow, the trees absorb CO2 from the atmosphere through photosynthesis and store it within their growing biomass (trunk, branches, leaves and root systems). A “forest carbon offset,” is a metric ton of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e)—the emission of which is avoided or newly stored—that is purchased by greenhouse gas emitters to compensate for emissions occurring elsewhere. Offsets may be developed under voluntary market standards or compliance market standards, each of which has specific carbon accounting and eligibility rules.

In general, three types of forest management activities may produce carbon offsets:

Afforestation/Reforestation (A/R): carbon is sequestered and offsets generated through the creation or re-establishment of forests.
Avoided Conversion (AC): forests with a demonstrably high likelihood of tree and carbon loss (usually from conversion to agriculture or development) commit to retain forest as forest, and the avoided carbon dioxide emissions through this conservation effort yield offsets. Under the Verified Carbon Standard, Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD) is similar to AC.
Improved Forest Management (IFM): better, sustainable forest management increases carbon in the forest and in durable, harvested wood products. Improved forest management for carbon offset projects may include:
– Increasing overall age of forest by increasing rotation ages
– Increasing the forest productivity by thinning diseased or suppressed trees or managing brush and other competing vegetation
– Improving harvest practices
– Maintaining stocks at a high level

NSWOOA: ​Carbon Offsetting
Page of links

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